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Entries in maria balice (4)


Simple Recipes: Lentil Soup Keeps New Year's Resolutions Cooking

In place of one of our quick "Weeknight Dinners," today we have a recipe for a delicious lentil soup that is very simple to make but takes a bit of time to come together. It's from one our favorite contributors, Maria Balice. -- Tara

Photo by Emily Barney on Flickr.Eat more healthily. Save money. Cook more meals at home. Check. Check and check.  If these were your New Year’s resolutions, the recipe below for lentil soup fits the bill – it’s cheap, easy to make and exceptionally healthy.  A package of lentils is about a buck, as are most of the other ingredients (besides the olive oil), and the legumes packs a powerful nutrition punch, providing protein, dietary fiber and folate. In fact, southern Italians eat lentil soup at midnight on New Year’s eve because it’s supposed to provide prosperity in the year to come – probably a nod to how economical it is to make the meal. And since one of my resolutions was to write more for Go West Young Mom, this recipe comes at the perfect time.


1 16 oz. package of dried lentils

1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes

12 cups of water

3 celery stalks – chopped

2 large carrots – chopped

3 garlic cloves – crushed

2 bay leaves

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

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The easy route to tasty bacon and a mess-free kitchen

I have a love/hate relationship with bacon. It’s the perfect combination of crispy and salty.  And I’m sorry, the turkey kind just doesn’t cut it. But why, oh why must it be so painful to prepare? Splatters on the stove and on your wrists, while you mutter words under your breath that you don’t want your kids to hear. Then you have a pan full of hot grease to dispose.

You could always try those “As Seen on TV” microwave bacon cookers – but I don’t know about you – it just seems doubly wrong to nuke something I know I shouldn’t be eating too much of anyway. And although I’ve never tried them, I don’t believe they work. 

So finally, I asked the waitress at one of our family’s favorite pancake houses, how do they make their bacon? It always seems so crunchy and flat, not curled into the fetal position like the strips in my skillet at home. The answer? They bake it! 

It took a few experiments to get the right temperature and timing – and you’ll probably fiddle around with it for your own oven – but it’s worth it.

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Attack of the Killer (Backyard Garden) Tomatoes

Bursts of red peeking out from a tangle of green vines: August is just around the corner and that means tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes. Last year I planted way too many tomato plants, about eight, in my small garden, which was my first foray into growing my own vegetables. I canned some, made ratatouille, gave bags away and many committed suicide – falling to the earth before I could pick them.  
I smartened up this year, or so I thought, and planted fewer plants. To my surprise, tomato plants I had not planted started sprouting – I’m told veteran gardeners call them “volunteers,” tomato plants that pop up from seeds of the previous year’s fallen soldiers. I shouldn’t complain. Anyone who has eaten a garden-fresh tomato, whether from your own yard or the farmers market, knows the taste can’t compare to the sanitized blandness of the plastic wrapped varieties at the supermarket.  
So today, here’s a super simple recipe that uses A LOT of those tomatoes up and gets dinner on the table in about 20 minutes.  The great thing about this pasta dish, which is a bit of a variation on a Caprese salad (tomato,  basil, mozzarella), is that if you don’t count the pasta and salt and pepper, it only has five ingredients.

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Meat Takes a Backseat on the Grill: Try Veggies and Fruit 

I’m excited to introduce another Go West Young Mom guest columnist, and this writer is especially dear to my heart. She is my best friend Maria Balice, who also happens to be the best cook I know. The two years I lived with Maria in Lincoln Park after college were the most memorable, gastronomically-speaking, of my life. The great thing about Maria is that while she has been known to spend a whole day creating an amazing multi-course meal, she can also just whip something up in a few minutes based on whatever she has in her refrigerator or pantry. Here Maria tells you why you should be using the grill for more than burgers and steaks this summer.

Grilling is such an easy way to get dinner on the table, but meat is usually the star. However,  with fresh zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and all sorts of yummy vegetables bursting on the scene in either farmer’s markets or your own backyard, the grill is a simple way to bring out the flavor of fresh vegetables and, yes, even fruit. 
Almost any summer vegetable just needs a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper before it goes straight onto the grill.  Grilled tomatoes make a fabulous accompaniment to a burger or a steak.  And if you’re worried about veggies falling through the grate, forget about those fancy grill baskets.  All you need is a disposable aluminum cake pan – 13 inches by 9 inches (you can find them in the household items section of the grocery store or any dollar store). Plop in your vegetables, olive oil, salt and pepper and put the pan right on the grill rack over high heat.  Use some tongs to mix the veggies every few minutes and in about 10  to 15, you’ll have veggies everyone in the family will love.

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